The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) strongly denounces new proposed legislation in Texas that singles out transgender people for harsh discrimination. Introduced by Republican State Representative Gilbert Peña on March 10, House Bills 2801 and 2802 come on the heels of a string of bills targeting transgender people, including a prior bill in Texas, and similar ones in Kentucky, Florida and Minnesota.
House Bill 2801 would require schools to adopt policies prohibiting transgender students from using bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with who they are as boys and girls. It would also make schools liable for a minimum of $2,000 in damages that schools would have to pay to students who complain that they encountered a transgender student in a prohibited bathroom.
House Bill 2802 would make it a class B misdemeanor for transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match who they are as men and women. Violators would be punished by up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, or both. It would also give those who simply encounter transgender people in prohibited restrooms the ability to sue them for punitive damages of $2,000 and unlimited additional damages “for mental anguish.”
These bills come just weeks after Texas Republican State Representative Debbie Riddle introduced House Bill 1748 that would make it a crime for any transgender person over 12 to use a bathroom that matches their true self. That bill would punish transgender people with jail time of up to one year and fines of up to $4,000 for its violation. HB 1748 would also make it a felony for anyone who runs a public place like a restaurant to allow transgender people access to bathrooms they are prohibited from using under the terms of the bill. The violator could be punished by up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Statement from TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman
“These bills constitute an intolerable assault on the basic rights of transgender people. By threatening schools with punishment of at least $2,000 every time a transgender student is encountered in a bathroom, HB 2801 upends the basic relationship of teacher and student. Instead of ensuring that all Texas students can participate in school equally, Texas teachers would have to police their transgender students or stand by as their schools were penalized. The bill would make transgender students, who already face immense challenges, targets for further bullying, harassment and persecution. This is an attack on the health and well-being of vulnerable transgender youth who deserve the same chance to be safe and happy in their school environments as everyone else.
“HB 2802, which would criminalize transgender people for using bathrooms and locker rooms that match their true selves, is similarly unacceptable. It turns neighbor against neighbor by allowing anyone who encounters a transgender person in a prohibited bathroom to sue them. It follows the February 20 introduction of HB 1748, which also threatens transgender people with criminal prosecution. That bill additionally targets anyone who operates a bathroom open to the public. It threatens those bathroom providers with felony charges for allowing a transgender person to use a prohibited bathroom.
“These bills represent a dangerous escalation in efforts to gut non-discrimination ordinances in local areas that protect transgender people. They threaten basic freedoms and tear at the fabric of civil society. Lawmakers behind these bills claim that they are looking out for public safety. But they are creating unsafe conditions by declaring open season on transgender people in Texas. Targeting people this way is discriminatory, wrong, and cannot be tolerated. We hope a majority of fair-minded Texas legislators will recognize the harm that all of these bills will cause and soundly defeat them.”